Nearly a decade later, Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto V remains incredibly popular. Its multiplayer mode, GTA Online, is still one of the most-played games in the world. And it just launched on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. So one way or another, it’s very likely you’ve played GTA V. In fact, it’s very likely you’ve played too much, especially if you partake of GTA Online. I know I feel that way some days. But if, like me, you’re just a big fan of open-world games, you might find yourself craving something along the same lines as GTA V, yet different as well.
With that in mind, here are my suggestions for other large, open-world games to check out if you need a break from the digital streets of Los Santos, but wanna keep it realistic instead of taking on a fantasy joint like Skyrim or Elden Ring.
Watch Dogs 2
The latest entry in the franchise, Legion, is ok, but far too focused on the “play as any NPC” gimmick, leading to a lacklustre story, boring characters, and bland missions. Watch Dogs 2, on the other hand, takes the open-world formula of the original and infuses it with a playful, colourful cast of characters and missions. And you can hack so much stuff in this game, letting you get up to no good in a way GTA V can’t come close to replicating. Wanna hack a cop cruiser and use it as a giant RC car, running over other police in the process? You can do this, and so much more.
Saints Row The Third
Perhaps you love the more wacky, modern era of GTA Online, with all the jetbikes and laser tanks and aliens. If so, and if you want even more zany open-world shenanigans, then you should check out Saints Row The Third. While all of the series’ games have their fans, I think the third entry strikes the perfect balance between grounded GTA clone and over-the-top nonsense. It’s also playable on just about every platform in 2022, including Switch.
If you ate up GTA V’s plot and are looking for another open-world game with a similarly cinematic storyline, Mafia III is for you. I’ve played a lot of big, open-world action games over the last decade, and Mafia III is still one of the best. Its story explores racial issues without pulling punches (for the most part), telling its tale with a great cast supported by impressive writing. Combat can be a bit repetitive, as can some of the side content, but that doesn’t detract from the main campaign’s unusual strengths and high points.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Obvious choice, right? But I still think it’s worth mentioning GTA IV because its sequel is nearly 10 years old at this point. It’s quite possible that someone reading this might’ve logged hundreds of hours in GTA V but is too young to have played 2008’s grittier, grimier Grand Theft Auto IV. If you do want to play GTA IV today, it runs great on Xbox One X and Series consoles via backward compatibility. And the PC port, while not the most optimised thing ever released, has a large and still-active modding community, too.
Scarface: The World Is Yours
Nobody would call 2006’s Scarface: The World Is Yours a beloved classic. But if you’ve already played the other, more modern open-world crime games of today, like GTA V and Watch Dogs, I’d recommend going back to try this oddball out. This ain’t a remake, but instead an alternative-timeline sequel in which Tony Montana lives at the end of the original film and has to then build his empire, again.
What makes this licensed, open-world game worth playing is just how much ideas the devs packed into it. You have large combat setpieces, drug-dealing side missions, the ability to play as different members of your gang, and Tony can even swim, unlike most early GTA protagonists. There are also some decent mods out there for the PC version that help make Scarface easier to play on modern machines. If you have a weekend to kill, why not give Scarface a shot?
Forza Horizon 5
A lot of GTA Online players almost exclusively focus on the game’s car culture and racing content. Many reach a point when they just want to race but GTA Online’s constant grind, long loading times, and annoying players leave them feeling burnt. If you feel that way, I’d recommend checking out Forza Horizon 5, which is available via Xbox Game Pass. It features a huge open world, with user-created races, big events, and a ton of multiplayer options, but includes solo content too. And best of all: no weaponised jetbikes zooming around and blowing you up every few minutes.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands
A third-person, squad-based tactical shooter from Ubisoft might seem like a weird game to include on this list, but let me explain. Wildlands shook up the Ghost Recon formula; instead of a typical level-based shooter, it’s a tactical action game set in a large open world. It still features all the intense stealth action and military tech the series is famous for, but now you can also steal a motorcycle, ramp it off a mountain, and have your friend crash into you in midair in a stolen helicopter. Just like Tom Clancy would have wanted, I assume.
State of Decay 2
Zombies! They are everywhere. Not even Rockstar games are exempt, and they’ve even shown up in GTA V via mods. State of Decay 2 is what happens when a developer takes the basic foundation of a GTA game — an open world filled with missions, vehicles, and places to explore — and replaces all the cops and pedestrians with the undead. And also adds a base-building mechanic and co-op. The end result is a janky but fun open-world action game with a focus on survival. Play with friends and you’ll have a good time. Well, until they make too much noise searching a house and get your favourite character permanently killed. But before that, you’ll have so much fun.
All 3D and HD-era GTA games are set in the United States. That’s fine, I guess, but the world is a big place, and Sleeping Dogs takes the GTA-like formula to a fresh location: Hong Kong. There aren’t many games set in Hong Kong, and none of them are as fun and good as Sleeping Dogs. What really helps this game stand out from all the other GTA clones is its focus on melee combat and hand-to-hand fights. Guns are rare in the game, like in Hong Kong, so you have to learn combos and use the environment to your advantage in fights. You can also grab someone, smash their head into a phone booth, shove them into your trunk, and then drive them off a cliff. Can’t do that in GTA V.
There are of course many more open-world games that are heavily inspired by the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Not long after GTA III was unleashed on the world it seemed every game developer decided to take a swing (or a few) at recreating the formula that Rockstar helped pioneer.
So it’s very likely you might have a favourite GTA-like game that didn’t make this list. If so, let us know in the comments below!